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UK teen is world's youngest certified ethical hacker (maybe)

Born to tinker

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For as long as he can remember, Shane Kelly has taken a keen interest in taking things apart. When he was 11 and his family took delivery of its first PC, he promptly pulled off the cover and disassembled it, much to the chagrin of his parents.

"They weren't too impressed at the time," Kelly, who is now 16, says. "But I put it back together. It worked."

A few months ago, the Solihull teenager successfully acquired an accreditation in Certified Ethical Hacking, making him possibly the youngest person to do so. While computers and networking have always captured his imagination, he says his interest in security prompted him to go for the hacking certification.

"That certainly stood out because it was the one qualification that focused not on the defensive side but it actually took you into the mind of the hacker," he says. "It was the mindset that gave me the motivation into taking the course."

Once upon a time, network security and penetration testing was a specialized field that was mainly inhabited by expensive outside consultants. Now that the net has become a core part of transacting business, more and more organizations are bringing these workers in-house.

"It's really come into its own as a legitimate area," says Terry Kurzynski, CEO of professional services firm Halock Security Labs, which also provides training for people seeking the credential. "We've been in security for 11 years and it really hasn't been until the last four or five years that ethical hacking has become a service."

It took Kelly about 10 months to complete the course work and pass the four-hour test required to get the accreditation. That included a five-day boot camp.

He recently landed a spot as a temporary worker at the Birmingham City University, where he expects to do IT-related work. He's considering acquiring additional accreditations for Cisco and Microsoft technologies.

But eventually, he says, he plans to do security work.

"Due to my age, it's probably not going to happen in the next five years," he says. "In the industry, you need to have a certain amount of experience. I hope to see myself doing security work of some some sort." ®

This story was updated to correct the name of the university where Kelly has landed a temp job.

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